Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Are you talkin' to me?

I've come across my share of rude people. I have held jobs in the service industry, albeit mostly in my youth, but it wasn't until recently that I realized just how much rudeness the average customer service worker must endure.

Last September I took a job, I'd go so far as to say my dream job, that requires some but not much face to face customer service. I do backup reception and happily deal with professors who are dropping off or picking up exams. Mostly I work with representatives from each academic unit, who in turn deal with the end user (faculty member or student) in their respective units. This is my full-time job and I love it. I pore over data on a computer half the time and for chunks of time I am hands on with mountains of paper. Again, I love it. Few people. Just numbers.

However, I also have a part-time job where service probably tops the list of what I deliver to the customer. Sure, they are renting a room for the night and I make sure they get what they need but my interaction with them should leave them feeling good about their decision to choose our hotel.

Most people are nice, many are dog tired from travelling and a few are downright grumpy. All of those I can handle and even justify. Hell, I've been tired and grumpy after driving for hours too and all I want is a clean hotel room with a soft bed so maybe I've been a bit short with the front desk staff myself. Now that I'm on the receiving end, I realize there's a lot I can take from customers like these. They are really good people at heart, I'm just catching them in a difficult moment in their lives. The bulk of travellers in the summer are on vacation so they are in a whole different league of happy (sometimes drunk) but are just as easy to understand and deal with as the tired traveller.

Now let's get to the heart of the matter. The asshole. There are a few and boy do they enjoy making a customer service worker earn their minimum wage. Every last living penny of it.

As a customer service agent, I realize that I must set aside my personal pet peeves so the fact that someone "forgets" to thank me for something I've gone the extra mile to provide bugs me but I let it go. I let a lot of things go. Assholes go the extra mile too and they let nothing go. They do things like peeing on a vehicle in the parking lot because they are too drunk to make it back to their room. Or blocking open a fire exit door to have a smoke outside because they don't want to go back to their room and get their key. Or using that slimeball charm on me to see if they can get more than they deserve. Slimeball charm has never worked on me. So when I ask someone to please let me do my job, the greasy grin on their face often disappears and the real asshole emerges. They get downright nasty. But I know my rights and I can smile all the while I'm telling them what's right and wrong.

Yesterday I found myself dealing with a professor who sounded a lot like the truck-peeing asshole I deal with at the hotel. And I found myself smiling and giving him a kind, respectful explanation of what I was able to do to assist him. He hung up the phone satisfied that he had put me in my place and I hung up the phone thinking exactly the same thing. He expected that since he wasn't getting his way, the minion must be incompetent. I explained to him my workload, priorities and that his request would be dealt with in as swift a manner as I was capable of...and he was welcome to contact my manager if he was unsatisfied with my answer. Of course, putting a manager between us often quells the storm of dissatisfaction. As long as they've been heard and feel they might have sped up the process by calling me, then all is well. After I hung up the phone, I went straight to the pile of paperwork that contained his "request" and swiftly moved it to the bottom of the pile, which is too bad because it was really really close to the top. But of course, now that I've had to take such a long phone call, I need to re-sort my priorities.

Oh and one last thought. The customer is NOT always right. In fact, the customer seldom understands the rules or is informed about the rules or has had the rules applied to them in the past so I have no problem explaining to them how things are going to be. And thanks to the assholes of this world, there are rules rules and more rules to follow. And I can always re-sort my priorities according to the rudeness level I'm forced to put up with.

Because if everyone was kind and respectful of one another we wouldn't need rules, would we?